Circuit of The Americas has always been one of our hotter races on the schedule, but this year it was taken to an extreme.
One of our engineers said that the temperature in the cockpit went from slightly below our skin temperature to slightly above it, which is why we felt such a big increase. Either way, it felt like driving around in a steam room.
The added heat meant the race would be tough on us, so we planned for a double driver change during the race so that no one would need to do a double stint like normal.
Although I spend a lot of my time training in the heat and humidity, there is no doubt that drivers lose performance trying to push through a long stint in the heat. We’re all mentally tough, but at the end of the day we weren’t upset to hear that we would be doing single stints during the race!
The race start didn’t go well. After a poor getaway accelerating to the line, I tried the outside in the brake zone for T1, which is a trick that worked for me two years ago. If you start far enough back, the whole line of cars tends to get bottled up on the inside and it’s possible to sneak around the outside.
That worked well two years ago, but unfortunately one of the prototypes had dropped oil in the brake zone at the start, which I didn’t realize until my left front tire was locked up. It dropped me back to P8 in class and gave us an uphill battle for the remainder of the race.
I fought back up to P7 and closed the gap on the No. 4 Corvette who was sitting P6 at the time, only to see the first full-course yellow come out.
Since Lucas and I are further back in points than our sister car, the team elected to split the strategies on the two cars so that we could cover ourselves and salvage some points for BMW’s manufacturer’s championship in case one strategy didn’t work.
The No. 25 car stuck with the safer strategy while we took a risk that could have paid off.
Unfortunately, the second yellow didn’t quite allow us to use our strategy’s full potential. After our final stop, I came out of the pits in P8 but could easily make it to the end on fuel, and we were confident in our ability to keep good pace throughout a long run.
A lot of times, we get instructions from the team to save fuel or save tires through a stint, but this time my instruction was easy: PUSH!
It was a fun stint for me since I got to push like it was qualifying the whole time. While others were saving tires and fuel and running in the 2:05’s and 2:06’s, I was turning consistent laps in the 2:04’s with no worries about whether we would make it to the end.
As a driver, those stints are the most fun because there is nothing to lose but you have potential to succeed as the wild card.
Sadly, an alarm came up on my dash with 15 minutes to go telling me that I had a left-front tire deflating. We lost 60 seconds due to the slow in lap and pit stop, crossing the line P7 in class.
Looking at the times, 60 seconds less would have put us P3 in class after the two factory Porsches had to splash for fuel at the end, so it was a disappointing finish.
The good news is that the No. 25 BMW won the race, which brings us back into contention for the manufacturer’s championship heading into the final round at Petit.
There are a few different finish scenarios that could net BMW the championship, but the easiest to remember is that if we win the race, BMW will win the championship no matter where Porsche finishes.